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College of Education honors teachers, administrator

The Pittsburg State University College of Education will honor three teachers and an administrator for their distinguished service and outstanding efforts in the classroom at the annual Clyde U. Phillips Awards Recognition Ceremony at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8, in the Sharon Kay Dean Recital Hall in McCray Hall. Student scholarships will also be awarded as part of the ceremony. A reception will precede the ceremony at 6:30 p.m. in the McCray Hall Lobby.

The Pittsburg State University College of Education will honor three teachers and an administrator for their distinguished service and outstanding efforts in the classroom at the annual Clyde U. Phillips Awards Recognition Ceremony at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8, in the Sharon Kay Dean Recital Hall in McCray Hall. Student scholarships will also be awarded as part of the ceremony. A reception will precede the ceremony at 6:30 p.m. in the McCray Hall Lobby.


Distinguished Service Award

The Clyde U. Phillips Distinguished Service Award is given to one teacher and one administrator whose careers have been highlighted by significant achievement and excellence in education. This year, the awards go to Deborah “Debbie” Restivo, a fourth grade teacher at Frank Layden Elementary School in Frontenac, and Leigh Anne Neal, the associate superintendent for communications at the Shawnee Mission School District.

Outstanding Educator Award

The Outstanding Educator Award goes to persons who have shown, within their first seven years of service, the potential to make significant contributions to education. Two awards, one for elementary level and one for secondary, are given. The 2015 Outstanding Educator Awards go to Angela Espinosa, a kindergarten teacher at Frank Layden Elementary School in Frontenac, and Jordan White, a band teacher for grades 6-12 in the Seneca (Mo.) R-7 School District.

Deborah L. “Debbie” Restivo - Distinguished Service (Teacher)

Restivo earned a bachelor’s degree in art education from Florida State University in 1974 and a master’s degree in elementary education from Pittsburg State University in 1984.

Restivo began her career in education at Paola Middle School, where she taught seventh grade reading. She taught at LaCygne Elementary and at Towanda Grade School before coming to Frank Layden Elementary in 1993. At Frank Layden, Restivo has taught third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades.

Restivo is a frequent presenter at state and national education meetings on topics including geography, thematic teaching with the rainforest, multiculturalism, and children’s literature. She has also been a faithful mentor for young people entering the teaching profession. That includes nearly 70 PSU pre-lab students and 11 student teachers.

Nominators praised Restivo for her skill and her passion for teaching.

“I have watched Debbie pour herself into her profession,” one nominator wrote. “She lives to teach (and) she wants everyone she meets to share her dream of success for every child whose life she touches.”

“Her encouragement, friendship and mentoring has continued over the past 10 years of my career,” one former student teacher wrote of Restivo. “I have called her to share moments of frustration, sadness and joy. I am happy to call her my friend, mentor and now, my colleague.”

Leigh Anne Neal - Distinguished Service (Administrator)

Neal earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and journalism from Southern Methodist University in 1989, a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from Avila University in 1993, a master’s degree in educational leadership from Pittsburg State University in 2004 and a doctorate in educational leadership from Baker University in 2013.

Neal began her career in education as a special education and third grade teacher at Somerset Elementary School in the Shawnee Mission School District. From 1998 until 2000, Neal taught kindergarten at Belinder Elementary School, also in the Shawnee Mission District and in 2000 was named director of public information for the district. The district selected Neal as associate superintendent for communications in 2010.

Neal has been recognized nationally for her leadership in school district communications. Those honors include the Broadcast Media Award for Television by the International Reading Association and 13 Golden Achievement Awards from the National School Public Relations Association.

Neal is active in her community, serving on the governmental affairs committee of the Overland Park, Kan., Chamber of Commerce; and as the district representative to the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce, the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce and the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce.

Neal is a YouthFriends/MVP mentor, presenter and trainer and in 1995 was selected as a Distinguished Young Kansas Citian by Kansas City Magazine.

Outstanding Educator Award - Angelina Espinoza

Espinoza earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Kansas in 2005 and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Pittsburg State University in 2008. She has taught kindergarten at Frank Layden Elementary School in Frontenac for the past five years.

Nominators singled out Espinoza for her passion for teaching, her desire to improve professionally and her communications skills with parents.

“Her enthusiasm and excitement for the educational process is contagious, not only for her students, but for her colleagues, as well,” a fellow teacher wrote.

Outstanding Educator Award – Jordan White

White earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Pittsburg State University in 2010 and a master’s degree in music with a wind conducting emphasis, also from Pittsburg State, in 2012. He has taught at Seneca R-7 for three years.

At Seneca, White serves as assistant director of bands, the brass technician for grades 6-12, the percussion technician for grades 7-12 and the director of the Junior High Jazz Band. Under his leadership, Seneca students have received 1 ratings at the State Large Ensemble Contest and Jazz Band Contests. His students have been recognized at the regional, district and state levels.

Nominators praised White for his dedication to student learning, his commitment to music and the fine arts and his leadership within the district.

“Perhaps his greatest strength,” one nominator wrote, “is his positive, growth-oriented mindset. He has worked collaboratively with his colleagues and the administration in professional learning communities that focus on student learning.”

The Clyde U. Phillips awards were established in memory of Clyde U. Phillips, a graduate of Pittsburg State University and a well-known Kansas educator. Phillips, who met his wife, Fern Field Phillips when they were both students at PSU, completed his career in education as the superintendent of schools in Hays. In their will, the Phillipses bequeathed a sum of money to support the awards.

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